SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE CHOICES CAN HELP REDUCE THE RISK OF STROKE
by TIM SMITH
Crash diets may help you lose weight quickly, but they’re not the answer when it comes to stroke prevention.
Eating healthily, of course, is a key lifestyle choice that reduces the risk of a stroke by keeping your weight down and your blood pressure and cholesterol low.
But according to Dr Mike Serebrennik, you should think carefully about how you go about any big changes to the way you live your life.
“The best advice I could give is to make sustainable lifestyle changes,” he said.
“Can you really say you’re not going to get French fries every time, you’re going to get pasta every time instead? Can you make that choice sustainably and stick with it?
“Crash diets are a round trip and at the end of it you haven’t got to a healthier place.”
Many lifestyle choices increase the risk of stroke, such as smoking, which narrows your arteries and makes your blood more likely to clot, or heavy drinking, which raises blood pressure and causes irregular heartbeat.
Any foods high in cholesterol, salt and sugar are obvious offenders, while fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk.
Dr Serebrennik, the chief operating officer at Bermuda-based Lighthouse Medical Supplies, noted the advice is simple.
“Stop doing bad things to your body that are going to give you a stroke,” he said.
He suggested getting personalised advice from your doctor so you can stick with your health regime.
“Keep track of your progress,” he said. “Watching your results improve is an incredible motivator.”
Dr Serebrennik added: “Studies have indicated people are moving less as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods. People may have good intentions, then they see the sticker and make a choice that’s based on budget instead of health.”
Mark Selley, the chairman of the Bermuda Stroke Association, has visited about 2,500 people who have suffered a stroke in the past three decades.
But Mr Selley said by the time he gets to see them, it feels like it’s too late to make a difference.
“Trying to pacify people that have already succumbed to a stroke is almost an impossibility,” Mr Selley said.
“You are trying to fix something that’s already broken.
“The reason they had the stroke is the last thing they want talk about. They will ask how are they going to get over this crisis. Seldom do they bring up the reason they got it.”
Mr Selley said Bermudians are particularly prone to eating unhealthy foods.
“Every time there’s a party, they load up their plates with all the things they shouldn’t be eating. They’re the things you like, but you should be aware they’re not good for you,” he said.
“There has to be a deliberate attempt on the individual households to monitor the eating habits of the family. You are what you eat.”
Mr Selley said stress is increasingly considered a risk factor for strokes.
While many people feed under pressure in their jobs, Mr Selley argued they could even be considered relatively lucky.
“Some people don’t have the luxury of a job in the first place,” he said. “Life in general is a stress. It’s the commitment a family is put through day to day to survive.
“Everybody has a different type of immunity to stress. It can be a huge underlying factor in strokes.”
According to the Bermuda Hospitals Board, the best ways to prevent having a stroke are:
• Keep your blood pressure low
• Lower your cholesterol
• Eat healthy food
• Exercise regularly
• Treat sleep apnea
• Manage your diabetes
• Drink in moderation
• Avoid smoking
• Avoid stress
• Maintain a healthy weight
For more information about stroke prevention from the BHB, visit: https://bermudahospitals.bm/services-listing/acute-inpatient-care/ primary-stroke-centre.